Kanban is a strategy to optimize flow

Central to the definition of Kanban is the concept of flow. Flow is the movement of potential value through a system.

As most workflows exist to optimize value, the strategy of Kanban is to optimize value by optimizing flow.

Value optimization means striving to find the right balance of effectiveness, efficiency, and predictability in how work gets done.

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Standard References

We, at ProKanban.org, base our understanding of Kanban both on classic texts (works of Dr. Little, Shewhart, Deming etc.) as well as our own day to day practice and application of these concepts.

This understanding is represented by two documents:

The Kanban Guide – A text that describes Kanban in a more formal manner. It explains the base principles and practices that constitute a Kanban system.

The Kanban Pocket Guide – This guide has a much more practical slant to it. It helps the reader understand how to put the concepts in The Kanban Guide into practice.

Finding Flow

Kanban is really about a 4-letter f-word: FLOW. It is  flow that ensures we are able to deliver value continuously to our customers. The observation of problems in flow help us retrospect and improve the process. The active management of flow ensures that the system does not break down, and if it does break, we learn how to recover. Kanban can be used to expose the flow (or lack thereof) of work at any level of the organization.

Kanban is a strategy to become more efficient, effective and predictable with your flow. Visualizing your work, paying attention to your metrics, creating and adjusting your policies are all in service of FLOW.

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The History of Kanban

Kanban originated in lean manufacturing with the goal of improving just-in-time production to create efficiency by limiting the resources to only what was needed for the immediate work items. Today, kanban as a strategy can be applied to nearly every industry or type of work.


Taiichi Ono & Toyota

Ohno believed he could increase productivity and reduce waste if all workers could visualize the entire process, understand how their work contributed to it, and raise the alarm if they spotted a problem—even if it wasn’t their problem.


Lean Software Development

Originated in a book by the same name, by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieckhe book restawell as a set of 22 tools and compares the tools to corresponding agile practices.


First Kanban team at Corbis

Darren Davis, Dominica Degrandis, MarkGrotte, Larry Cohen, Rick Garber, and Steven Weiss set out to create a visual, pull based system that called out blockers and simplified prioritization.


ProKanban.org founded

A community dedicated to creating a safe, diverse, and inclusive space where everyone can learn about Kanban. We simplify success for people, teams, and organizations by providing training, certification, and continued learning.